All members of our team in the USA are volunteers who give their time and energy freely to WE C Hope, despite the many challenges retinoblastoma brings to their own personal lives.
We are widely scattered across the country. Our meetings are held by teleconference and we use social media to maintain communication and collaborative work between meetings.
Marissa’s mother noticed a reflection in her left eye at fifteen months. The local pediatric ophthalmologist dismissed her concerns, but her persistence led to a bi-lateral retinoblastoma diagnosis two months later. Marissa’s left eye was removed at 23 months. She endured five years of therapy to save her right eye.
Side effects of radiotherapy led to multiple surgeries, and side effects from those surgeries, including daily pain. This has heavily shaped Marissa’s life. She has grieved the cancer, the loss of a normal childhood and the limitations imposed on her. Despite this, she has lived an immensely full life, including international travel and studying at the University of Southern California (USC).
Event planning is Marissa’s passion. She is a Director of Special Events for USC, where she plans and executes events for students, parents, alumni and donors, along with freelance event management.
Marissa enjoys traveling within the USA and internationally, and is an avid college football fan. She enjoys attending live sporting events, concerts and theatre, while throwing parties for every occasion keep friends and family close and in good cheer.
WE C Hope
Chief Financial Officer
Mark’s wife, Katherine, is a survivor of bilateral retinoblastoma and a related second primary cancer.
“I think our strength is measured by how we overcome challenges. When Katherine was diagnosed and underwent a year of treatment for osteosarcoma just 6 months after our wedding (having been cancer-free for 26 years), it was certainly a challenge, but one we faced with the right mind-set to overcome it”.
Their daughter, Lucia, was born in 2015 with tumors in both eyes, and continues to undergo treatment. Mark decided to use his family’s experience and his professional knowledge of the ‘business of healthcare, to help others. He joined the WE C Hope board in October 2015.
Mark is a Chartered Accountant, with over 10 years of experience at a “Big Four” accounting firm. He joined Pine Hill Group in 2014, and provides merger and acquisition advice to corporations and private equity firms specialized in the healthcare industry.
Originally from the United Kingdom, Mark has lived in the Philadelphia area since 2003. He enjoys travelling and working out, but spends most of his spare time playing with his two young children and juggling housework as he and his wife both pursue their professional careers.
WE C Hope
Sarah lives with her husband and son in the Philadelphia area. Following her graduation from Connecticut College, she spent over four years working in fundraising, including work in the development offices of two of Boston‘s world-class hospitals. A desire to have a more direct impact on the daily lives of children led her to pursue a career in Speech-Language Pathology, receiving her master’s degree from La Salle University in 2011. Since graduation, she has worked with children from birth through age 21 who are impacted by speech, language, and feeding difficulties.
Sarah’s introduction to WE C Hope came from fellow board member Mark Billings. Sarah and her family have been friends with the Billings family from the time their sons were infants. She hopes her continued interest - combined with her past experience - in fundraising will make a positive impact on the organization.
In her free time, Sarah enjoys finding new places to explore with her son, reading, music, and participating in activities at her church.
Kristen has 15 years of experience in communications and graphic design, incorporating change management techniques. Throughout her career, she has worked with a variety of organizations – from small companies to large corporations and non-profits. Her motto over the years has become “I’m here to help!”
In Kindergarten, Kristen met her best-friend-for-life, Marissa Gonzales. She is Marissa’s go-to driver for surgeries, on-point menu reader in dark restaurants, and blind-side detector. Throughout their friendship, she has witnessed first-hand the effects of retinoblastoma on patients and family. As a result, she has become a passionate supporter of improving quality of life and medical care for everyone impacted by Rb.
Kristen is an avid reader, a DIYer/crafter, and enjoys vacationing anywhere there is water (“…a pond, a pool, a lake, a sea…I’m not picky”). She lives in Southern California with her husband, dog, and three cats.
Teri and her husband, Mikel, live in Peoria, AZ. In her teens, Teri advanced to Assistant Manager at Kay Bee Toys. She now works with a major national insurer, and has more than 25 years of progressive experience in property, casualty and PIP claims handling and supervision, and SIU.
Her granddaughter, Evangeline (Evie), was diagnosed with cancer in both eyes in July 2012, aged four months. She completed six rounds of chemotherapy with laser and cryotherapy at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and continues to make wonderful progress.
Teri has supported her grandchild through this experience, while also meeting the needs of her daughter, Evie’s mother, Lindsey. She is keen to help create a positive legacy from their trauma, to ease families’ emotional distress, reduce practical burdens and complications of multi-state care, and improve early diagnosis.
“Learning your grandchild has cancer at 4 months old is devastating. The next second your mind turns to how will MY child get through this? You want to do anything, everything to lighten her load. While I do not have right to direct Evie’s care, I can help make the future a better place for her and for other families.”
WE C Hope
Sarah “Sassy” Outwater is a bilateral retinoblastoma survivor. She lost her sight in both eyes before the age of four and has survived secondary brain tumors from the Retinoblastoma.
She is passionate about family support structures and medical research centered on understanding how to cope with the aftermath of retinoblastoma. Her main focus is survivorship advocacy, understanding RB genetic research and treatment break-throughs, follow-up care and developing a dialogue between patients and the medical community about living with and beyond retinoblastoma.
Sarah works in the music industry and in designing accessible products and services for companies working with disabled individuals. She brings technical, disability advocacy, financial management and public relations expertise to the WE C Hope USA board.
She lives in Cambridge Massachusetts, and when not fighting cancer in herself or others, enjoys writing, sailing, teas and chocolate, Yoga and advocating for persons with disabilities. When there’s enough snow, she’s also an avid downhill skier and snowball thrower extraordinaire.
Abby’s father was diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma in Kenya in 1946, and treated in England. Abby was also born with caner in both eyes. She has an artificial eye and limited vision in her left eye that is now failing due to late effects of radiotherapy received as a baby. Radiotherapy has caused other late effects including nightly cluster headaches.
Abby studied geography at university, with a special emphasis on development in sub-Saharan Africa. She co-founded WE C Hope with Brenda Gallie, responding to the needs of one child in Africa and the desire to help many like her in developing countries.
While working to build up care in Africa, Abby received many requests for help from American families and survivors. Challenged by the situations she observed, she co-founded WE C Hope USA to help advance care in the USA.
Abby enjoys writing, listening to audio books, open water swimming and long country walks with her guide dog, Annie.